Vauxhall Missing Link : The Promenade of Curiosities

The Vauxhall Missing Link is an urban design framework for Vauxhall, creating a strong linear connection between the proposed Vauxhall/Nine Elms/Battersea (VNEB) regeneration site and the South Bank.

The project was won through an international public realm design competition. The key objective of the framework is to enhance the experience of living, working and visiting Vauxhall through the creation of a delightful public realm.

The inspiration for the Promenade of Curiosities is inspired by Vauxhall’s rich (hi) story. Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens inspired the concept of the Promenade, a route between attractions. The Promenade is about seeing and being seen, at day and at night.
The famous collector of curiosities, Tradescant, was a local resident is buried on the grounds of the Garden Museum, the northern end of the route. On his travels he collected curiosities, which he kept in Tradescant’s ark, the first English Cabinet of Curiosities.
The modern day ‘promeneur’ collects his experiences of curiosities en route. The Curiosities are permanent and temporary installations along the promenade. They define and make places. They are heavily informed by the history of Vauxhall as well as Vauxhall’s current industries and attractions and relevance to their residents. Whilst the inspiration is historical, its programme and implementation will be contemporary, firmly embedded in local character.
Sustainability is at the core of the urban framework we developed following the competition win. Sustainability is considered in the round where environmental, social and economic improvements can be mutually beneficial when applied to the public realm. Urban greening and sustainable urban drainage are integral to the scheme, defining and delineating routes (forming a buffer between pedestrians/cyclists/vehicular traffic) whilst increasing biodiversity and reducing urban heat island effect, surface water flooding and carbon emissions. Crucially, cyclists and pedestrians are prioritised over vehicular traffic on Vauxhall Walk, which is the core development area of the project, connecting the station to the emerging gallery quarter.
The Thames was what initiated and defined Vauxhall over long periods of time. The framework seeks to reconnect Vauxhall to the Thames. Albert Embankment is greened, traffic buffered to become more humane, the focus shifts to the river. Access is created to the beach and more interest provided along the shore, which enables Londoners to engage with the river and its habitats, but also to use it recreationally.
Tree planting references plant species collected by Tradescant as a catalyst to engage the community in aspects of local heritage, nature conservation and horticultural practice, selected for their tolerance of urban conditions and suitability to climate change adaptation. Curiously pollarded trees reference the playful use of planting in the original Vauxhall Pleasure Garden, used strategically in the modern context as a way-finding device to encourage visitors to explore the scheme.
The framework consists of costed concept design proposals that each contribute to an overall coherent legibility of Vauxhall as a place of character and distinction. The structure of the framework enables the client to fundraise and implement project by project. As the scheme is designed to enhance and augment Vauxhall’s existing unsung charms it can be implemented in phases without jeopardising the overall legibility and coherence.
The first phase of implementation includes prototype rain gardens, living wall installations and meanwhile use projects on currently vacant sites to support the delivery of future projects, for example a tree nursery. These projects will act as test sites to garner further stakeholder support in the longer term to encourage more ambitious project implementation.

The framework can be used for design guidance by developers and agencies responsible for improvements to the public realm in the wider area.
Location: Vauxhall, London
Client: Vauxhall One BID
Status: Public Realm Framework 2014

Landscape Awards 2015: Winner 'Adding Value Through Landscape', Finalist 'Masterplanning'
Collaborators: J & L Gibbons